As a person of Mexican heritage, a big struggle for me is finding decent Mexican food at the 5C dining halls and around the Claremont Village. While I have dined at nearby restaurants like Casa Moreno, my heart will always belong to a local restaurant called Tropical Mexico, which I have frequented for years. Located on East End, about a ten-minute drive away, Tropical Mexico serves delicious and savory dishes at affordable prices.
The prices are great for Claremont College students looking for a meal that won’t break their budget, but will still sate their appetite. The average dish costs between $9 and $11. With large portions and complimentary chips and salsa, you definitely get your money’s worth.
The chips taste great and the salsa is delicious—but it is definitely on the spicy side. I am crazy for spice, though, so I like to add a bit of Tapatio for an extra burning kick. The meal also comes with your choice of chicken tortilla soup or a salad. I usually choose the salad with the house dressing because the crisp lettuce is a refreshing palate cleanser before the heavier main course. Of the entrees, I have tried the chicken tacos and all of the enchilada options. The tacos here are some of the best I have ever had. The meat is tender, juicy, and mixed with a variety of peppers and onions that bring out the savory flavor. The taco is topped with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and a deliciously crispy shell that brings it all together.
I am extremely picky when it comes to enchiladas because they are my favorite Mexican dish. A bad enchilada is a disgrace. Watery sauce or way too much cheese are some of the unfortunate features of enchiladas I’ve had at many places. At Tropical Mexico, though, the enchiladas trump all any other I have had at a Mexican restaurant. The sauce is thick and savory with the perfect amount of cheese—it oozes out and mixes deliciously with the rice on the side.
Whether you get a cheese, beef, or chicken enchilada, I can guarantee all will be delicious, though I personally prefer the chicken. The enchiladas have a similar blend of meat with peppers and spices as the tacos. The average portion comes with two enchiladas, rice, and beans. The rice itself is quite flavorful but tastes even better with the enchilada sauce.
Since I always go to Tropical Mexico when I’m craving enchiladas, I tend to not order other dishes. However, I did sample some of the carnitas, and the pork was quite juicy. I am hoping to try their mole soon as well; I am picky with my mole since many places tend to make it too sweet, overwhelming the dish so you can’t taste the meat.
The restaurant is kind of old and is located in what some people would consider a 'sketchy' area, but it still has its charms and a warm, inviting ambiance. The music is pleasant and the walls are covered with beautiful, tropical murals of Mexican themes. It doesn’t look fancy, but it isn’t supposed to—Tropical Mexico is a casual family restaurant treasured by locals. The servers are all nice and polite but don’t make excessive conversation, which is a plus for me. I can simply relax and enjoy the food without waiting for too long. Everything is quick, neat, and efficient.
So why should students at the Claremont Colleges be interested in this location? Well, it's nearby and easy to drive to. Moreover, there is plenty of room in the restaurant for large groups if you want to bring your friends. Plus, the food is reasonably priced and you get a filling meal well worth the money. More importantly, the dining halls tend to do a poor job of serving decent Mexican food, and while the restaurants in the Claremont Village are alright, Tropical Mexico beats them by a long shot. For my fellow Latinx students or anyone else in search of great enchiladas, this is the place to get them.